UPPER WEST SIDE — The newly elected president of the 20th Precinct Community Council wants to transform the volunteer group into a well-funded nonprofit, hosting events and reaching out to private foundations and donors.
Erica Ehrenberg, a local resident who grew up in the neighborhood, is replacing Ian Alterman, who has served as president for four years and as a member of the council for 12 years. She narrowly beat him out for the top spot in an anonymous 11-to-10 vote Monday.
Currently, the council raises money through a raffle it runs at its monthly meetings, donating the funds to the precinct's youth program and helping it purchase requested supplies.
But Ehrenberg wants to professionalize the process by obtaining 501(c)(3) status for the council. As executive director of the nonprofit American Institute of Iranian Studies, which promotes academics and Iran-U.S. dialogue, she said she understands both nonprofit management and fundraising.
"We live in a very wealthy neighborhood," she said at the Monday meeting. "I think a lot of people would be interested in donating to us and [the status] would enable us to get grants."
Other community councils across the city, including the Central Park Precinct Community Council, have achieved nonprofit status. Ehrenberg did not return a request for comment Tuesday about how she'd use the possible grant money.
Though Ehrenberg has never served on the council, she told residents assembled Monday that she spent more than 900 hours doing auxiliary police work in the area last year.
A historian in Near Eastern art and formerly a professor at NYU, Ehrenberg also served as an administrator at New York Academy of Art and Yale University — giving her experience in negotiating differing points of view, she said.
While fellow board members voiced support of Alterman, other residents argued for a changing of the guard.
"I think some fresh blood is needed," said Marc Glazer, a former member. "I do see the same things — maybe there’s another direction."
Ehrenberg said she also plans to increase notices about monthly meetings, which are held the fourth Monday of every month except in July and August, and solicit more feedback about meeting agendas.
On June 20, the council formally launched its own website, which offers the body a chance to make announcements and took a year to create.
The site should be used to update community members about developments in between meetings, Ehrenberg said.
Alterman will remain president through the rest of the month. He said he had not yet decided whether he'd remain involved with the council going forward.